Chicago may be famous for its city lifestyle, but it’s easy to forget that the Windy City is also home to a diverse range of wild animals. Amidst the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, parks and forest preserves provide a natural haven for creatures of all kinds. Ranging from majestic birds soaring over Lake Michigan to graceful deer grazing in nearby suburbs, the animals that call Chicago home are a testament to the city’s thriving urban and natural habitats. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply curious to explore a different side of the city, Chicago’s wild side is waiting to be discovered.
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Most Common Chicago Wild Animals
As you embark on a wild animal tour of Chicago and its outskirts, you’ll discover that there’s a whole thriving natural ecosystem teeming with biodiversity in and around the city. The parks, forest preserves, and green spaces scattered throughout Chicagoland are a testament to the beauty of the great outdoors, and serve as a reminder that nature has an enduring presence even amid the hustle and bustle of urban life. No matter what type of wildlife you’re hoping to see, keep your eyes peeled and your senses honed, because the opportunities to witness majestic species in their natural habitats while exploring the city are endless.
In Chicago and its environs, the hardy and clever coyote has made itself at home, adapting quickly to the noise and bustle of human settlements. Their haunting yips and howls pierce the night, a reminder that the great outdoors is never too far away. Although they tend to shy away from contact with humans, seeing a coyote in action can be both exhilarating and humbling. These tireless creatures are more than just marvels of nature; they serve an important purpose in keeping rodent populations under control.
2. White-tailed Deer
Chicago may be known for its busy city streets and towering skyscrapers, but the city’s natural areas hide a surprising secret: white-tailed deer. While these stunning animals are often associated with rural areas, they can also be found in the forest preserves and green spaces surrounding the city. Thanks to their agile movements and graceful appearance, white-tailed deer sightings in Chicago’s natural areas are a remarkable sight to behold.
During the breeding season, male bucks engage in impressive displays of dominance by clashing their antlers against each other. These stunning animals offer a glimpse into the region’s diverse wildlife, reminding us of the beauty that still exists in the midst of our bustling city.
3. Red Fox
The red fox is a creature that elicits both admiration and awe for its cunning nature and adaptability to urban environments. With their gorgeous red fur and bushy tails, spotting one in a park or green space is a sight to behold. Known for their nocturnal behaviour, red foxes become more active during twilight hours, making them fascinating to watch. Their agility and stealth are legendary, and observing them in their natural habitat can provide a glimpse into the beauty of the animal kingdom.
4. Great Blue Heron
The great blue heron is truly a marvel to behold. With its majestic stature and sleek blue-gray plumage, it’s hard not to be captivated by this magnificent wading bird. Standing tall at over four feet, with a wingspan stretching over six feet, the great blue heron is an impressive sight to behold. Perhaps the most striking attribute of these birds is their incredible patience.
These skilled hunters stalk their prey with precision and strike swiftly with their sharp beaks. Whether watching them hunt for fish, frogs, or small mammals, or taking flight across the wetlands, ponds, and rivers of Chicago, there’s no denying that the great blue heron is one of nature’s most captivating creatures.
5. Peregrine Falcon
The peregrine falcon is a true powerhouse in the animal kingdom. This fascinating bird is one of the fastest animals on the planet and has made a remarkable comeback in urban areas like Chicago. With its sleek, dark-gray feathers and pointed wings, the peregrine falcon is a symbol of strength and agility.
One of the most impressive sights to behold is the falcon’s breathtaking aerial dives, or “stoops,” as it hunts other birds, including pigeons, within the city skyline. The remarkable thing about these birds is that they have adapted well to urban life, nesting on skyscrapers and other high structures. It’s truly a thrilling opportunity to witness nature’s mastery in the heart of the city.
Best Places to See the Animals
Chicago may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of wildlife watching, but the truth is, the Windy City boasts several excellent locations for observing animals. From forests and lakes to wetlands and prairies, Chicago has a diverse array of habitats that are home to a wide range of species.
Whether you want to see birds, reptiles, amphibians, or mammals, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to do so in and around the city. Some of the best places to spot wildlife include the Lincoln Park Zoo, Northerly Island, the Morton Arboretum, and the Indiana Dunes National Park. So grab your binoculars and get ready to experience the natural world in the heart of the city!
1. Deer Grove Forest Preserve
Nestled in the picturesque northwest suburbs of Chicago, there’s a nature lover’s paradise waiting to be explored – Deer Grove Forest Preserve. It’s a place where the natural beauty of the landscape flourishes, and the wildlife thrives. The preserve’s lush forests, sprawling prairies, and serene wetlands make it the perfect spot for birdwatching and observing native wildlife. Here, you can catch a glimpse of white-tailed deer grazing, coyotes prowling, foxes roaming and various bird species soaring gracefully in the sky.
2. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
Waterfall Glen is a hidden gem located in the heart of Illinois. A breathtaking forest preserve, it is home to an array of natural wonder. The preserve spans over a vast 2,500 acres of land, showcasing a vast diversity of woodland, prairie, and savanna habitats. One of the most stunning features of this preserve is its wide variety of animal inhabitants. Visitors can come across a wide array of creatures such as white-tailed deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and more. Additionally, the area is home to a vibrant bird population, with numerous bird species calling it their home.
3. Illinois Beach State Park
Illinois Beach State Park is a hidden gem on the shores of Lake Michigan. With its pristine beaches, towering dunes, and vibrant wildlife, this state park offers a unique getaway for nature enthusiasts. From spotting rare birds during their migration to glimpsing white-tailed deer and playful foxes, visitors can experience the wonders of Illinois’ rich ecology. The park’s varied landscapes, including marshes and woodlands, offer a dynamic outdoor experience for hikers, joggers, and beachcombers alike.
4. Moraine Hills State Park
Nestled in McHenry County, Moraine Hills State Park is a mecca for those seeking a slice of nature near bustling Chicago. The park’s sprawling acres boast an array of natural habitats, including shimmering lakes, lush wetlands, wild prairies, and serene woodlands. As a result, it attracts a diverse range of animal life, from majestic waterfowl gliding across the waters to beavers tirelessly working on their dams. When visiting, take in the scenic views and watch as turtles and herons casually go about their day.
5. Starved Rock State Park
Nestled just 90 miles from Chicago lies a true natural gem, Starved Rock State Park. Whether you’re a hiker, wildlife enthusiast, or simply in search of stunning vistas, this park has something for everyone. As you explore the intricate canyons and winding trails, you may spot native animals such as deer, squirrels and even raccoons.
And for those who are avid birdwatchers, keep your eyes peeled for a wide range of feathered friends soaring through the tree canopy. But more than just animals, Starved Rock boasts a diverse array of landscapes, from cascading waterfalls to towering forests.
6. Indiana Dunes National Park
Chicago may seem like it’s always in the spotlight, but have you heard about its neighbor, Indiana Dunes National Park? It may come as a surprise to some, but this beautiful park is in fact located in Indiana and is just a hop, skip, and a jump east of Chicago. As one of the country’s newest national parks, Indiana Dunes boasts a stunning array of ecosystems, from the rolling dunes to marshy wetlands and lush forests.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for the park’s diverse range of inhabitants, including white-tailed deer, foxes, coyotes, and various bird species. But it’s not just the everyday creatures that call this park home. Keep your fingers crossed and you might catch a glimpse of some rarer species like the Indiana bat or Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.
7. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a hidden gem nestled about an hour’s drive southwest of the bustling Chicago metropolis. This vast expanse of natural beauty is dedicated to preserving and restoring the native tallgrass prairie ecosystem that is so critical to the ecological balance in the region.
Visitors can explore the numerous hiking trails that wind through the prairie, allowing them to take in the stunning scenery and observe the diverse array of wildlife that call it home. From bison and deer to coyotes and various bird species, there is an abundance of wildlife to observe and appreciate within the natural confines of the prairie.
8. Volo Bog State Natural Area
Nestled in the small village of Ingleside, just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, lies a hidden natural gem waiting to be discovered – Volo Bog State Natural Area. This secluded sanctuary is an oasis for a plethora of plant and animal species, ranging from migrating birds to elusive orchids. The star of the show, though, is the bog habitat that blankets the area in a stunning array of greens and browns. Boardwalk trails wind through the bog, offering visitors the opportunity to explore and learn about this distinct type of ecosystem firsthand.
9. Lake County Forest Preserves
Lake County is a wonderland for nature enthusiasts, located just a little north of Chicago. The place is blessed with a vast network of forest preserves, each offering a different yet equally fascinating ecosystem of its own. You can easily lose yourself in watching the array of creatures the preserves provide sightings for, from white-tailed deer to coyotes to foxes, as well as birds and other stunning native species. When you visit the forests, you’ll discover trails and observation points to quietly observe fascinating wildlife in their natural environment, making for an unforgettable experience.
What kind of wildlife is in Chicago?
Chicago has a surprising amount of wildlife residing within its limits. From the majestic bald eagle soaring over the Lake Michigan shoreline to the nimble white-tailed deer that call the city’s numerous parks and forest preserves home, there is certainly no shortage of natural beauty to be found in the Windy City. Migratory birds stop in Chicago during their travels, and bird watching enthusiasts flock to the city to catch a glimpse of rarities like the great horned owl. In addition, coyotes have even been spotted within city limits in recent years, adding to the diverse array of animals that call Chicago their home.
What wild animals do they have in Illinois?
Illinois is home to various types of deer, coyotes, foxes, and even bald eagles, making it a fantastic state to explore for nature lovers. It’s important to remember to always treat wild animals with respect and observe them from a safe distance, though. Who knows what fascinating creature you might run into during your next Illinois excursion!
What is the biggest predator in Illinois?
With a weight range of 100-600 pounds and an unparalleled sense of smell, the black bear can quickly become the king of the forest, able to hunt and forage with ease. Despite their size, black bears are surprisingly agile and fast, with the ability to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. While they may not be as well-known as their larger cousins, the grizzly bear, black bears still demand respect and caution from anyone who enters their territory.
A Great Place for Animal Lovers Chicago is often associated with its towering skyscrapers and bustling city life, but tucked away in the midst of the urban landscape lies a hidden gem for animal lovers. The city boasts a diverse array of wildlife, from majestic birds of prey soaring among high-rise buildings to playful coyotes wandering the parks. However, it’s crucial that we show respect and practise responsible wildlife viewing to ensure that these creatures can continue to thrive.
By maintaining a respectful distance, avoiding disturbing the animals and following regulations, we can ensure that Chicago’s wildlife remains a beloved aspect of the city for generations to come. Let’s protect and admire these wild wonders, learning to strike a balance between the vibrant city life and the natural world that surrounds us.
Rahul M Suresh
Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.